Love Makes Xfinity Series History In Atlanta Qualifying

HAMPTON, Ga. – Not even two weeks into his NASCAR Xfinity Series career, 19-year-old Jesse Love continues to make history with Richard Childress Racing.

Love rocketed to the pole position during Friday evening’s qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway, posting a blistering time of 31.874 seconds (173.935 mph) in the second and final knockout round with his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro.

It made Love, a native of Menlo Park, Calif., the first driver in Xfinity Series history to earn the pole for his first two starts. He was previously one of 14 drivers to have earned the pole for his Xfinity Series debut.


Jesse Love with the pole flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)


“Man, I’m so proud of Danny [Stockman, crew chief] and this whole team. These RCR cars are so, so fast,” said Love, the 20th driver to win an Xfinity Series pole at Atlanta. “ECR [Earnhardt Childress Racing] Engines give us so much power and then it’s up to us as the drivers to go out and lay down a fast lap.”

Perhaps most notably, Love was sporting a sleek set of orange-and-yellow, beach-themed driving shoes in advance of qualifying, featuring his personal logo and a palm-tree silhouette on the sides.

Just as at Daytona a week ago, Love’s RCR teammate Austin Hill will join him on the front row for Saturday’s Raptor King of Tough 250, with a time of 31.916 seconds (173.706 mph) in the No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro.

John Hunter Nemechek was third (31.947/173.537) in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, with Riley Herbst qualifying fourth (31.999/173.255) for Stewart-Haas Racing as the only Ford driver to advance to the final round.


Parker Kligerman timed in fifth, followed by Sam Mayer, A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Truex, Justin Allgaier, and Sheldon Creed among the 10 drivers who advanced through both knockout rounds.

Defending series champion Cole Custer was the first driver to miss the transfer in the first round of qualifying, earning the 11th starting spot with a lap of 32.258 seconds (171.864 mph) in the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang.

Custer missed the cutoff to advance to round two by four thousandths (.004) of a second.

Other notables starting deep in the field at Atlanta include Shane van Gisbergen (13th), Sammy Smith (14th), Brandon Jones (18th), Jeb Burton (25th), and Blaine Perkins (28th).

Jordan Anderson, who earned a top-five finish in the season opener last week at Daytona, did not post a qualifying time due to an apparent engine issue on his warm-up lap. Anderson will start 38th.

With just 38 cars on the property for 38 starting spots, no drivers failed to qualify for the race.

The Raptor King of Tough 250 is scheduled for a 5 p.m. ET green flag Saturday evening, with live coverage on FS1, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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